The Fairest of the Snow White Movies: Snow White and the Huntsman

“Why the hell would I want to see a movie with Bella Swan wielding a sword?” Don’t worry, we’ll get to that.

Before Disney’s animated Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) starring some chick with an annoying voice, the story of Snow White was a very dark German fairytale. Thankfully, Universal brought us something closer to that version rather than the crap we got from Disney. But they weren’t the only ones trying to revive Snow White.

Two Snow White movies came out within months of each other this year. Yes, two. It’s because there was a bit of a bitchfest going on between production companies, specifically Universal and Relativity. The two actually were financial partners a while back, but shit hit the fan. Suddenly, they had competing projects surrounding the same story. Coincidence? I don’t think so.

Universal’s Snow White and the Huntsman was supposed to come out in December 2012, but the company bumped it up to June 2012 to say “We did it first” before Relativity’s Mirror, Mirror, which then miraculously jumped ahead to a March 2012 release. You see how they fight in Hollywood? Fortunately, the films ended up with different target audiences—one for families, one for young adults/adults. Still, it doesn’t make the catfight any less funny.

Anyway, here’s how Universal describes the plot: “In the epic action-adventure Snow White and the Huntsman, Kristen Stewart plays the only person in the land fairer than the evil queen (Charlize Theron) out to destroy her. But what the wicked ruler never imagined is that the young woman threatening her reign has been training in the art of war with a huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) dispatched to kill her.”

I know a lot of people hate Kristen Stewart—and rightfully so, if the only movies you’ve ever seen her in are the Twilight movies. But if you’ve ever watched the lesser-known indie films she’s been in (See: In the Land of Women, The Runaways, or Into the Wild), you know that she’s a pretty decent actor. I’m not throwing out Oscars or anything, but she definitely has potential with a good script and guidance from a director.

Honestly, though this movie didn’t exactly require heavy-hitting acting, I loved Kristen Stewart. She looked beautiful (as you’d expect from the fairest of them all), and her British accent didn’t annoy me (though I did notice it slipped every now and then). I also really felt like she was as genuine and kindhearted as the character was meant to be. She didn’t look like some angst-filled teenager when she was crying over the death of one of the dwarfs. She didn’t Bella-lip-bite when she led her army into battle. And the speech she gave when she was trying to get her army to ride to fight against the evil queen was powerful.

What was funny to me was that, in many of her recent interviews, she stated that she’s terrified of riding horses, yet when you see her on her horse as they ride toward the castle, you’d think she’s a natural (and she actually did a majority of the riding stunts as well). All I’m saying is cut Kristen Stewart some slack. If you’re a fan, you’ll love this movie. If you’re not a fan but have an open mind, you’ll love the movie. If you’re just too stuck in your KStew-hate, then go see it for Chris Hemsworth because, hot damn, he is fine.

Speaking of Hemsworth, it was intriguing that the Huntsman turned out to be the one whose kiss broke the spell, not the “Prince” (who was actually the Duke’s son, which usually in the ranking of nobility would mean he was Snow White’s first cousin…so really, they saved them from making creepy inbred babies). Though you kind of had to expect that was coming when she spent the majority of the movie with the sexy, axe-wielding Huntsman and not with Prince I-Know-How-To-Use-A-Bow-And-Arrow.

Some more praise? The CGI work was really incredible. The evil queen’s mirror actually spilled onto the floor and warped into a creepy, golden statue when it talked to her, which was a very unique take on the traditional mirror. No doubt this movie’s CGI was aided by the sets, too. The Dark Forest totally reminded me of the Fire Swamp in The Princess Bride, especially with all of the “it channels what you fear most” talk from the Huntsman. And the magical, fairy forest where the dwarfs lived was a nice contrast to the Dark Forest (Huh, it’s almost like they planned the Dark Forest to resemble the evil queen and the fairy forest to resemble Snow White).

Now, while Charlize Theron looked absolutely fantastic as beauty-obsessed Ravenna—what with her raging bitch glare and killer body—there was one thing that kind of lacked “evil.” And that was her delivery. I thought her unpredictable shouting at moments somewhat lessened her evil. Don’t get me wrong. Nothing says I’m a psycho like screaming orders at the top of your lungs. But think about some of the best movie villains of all time…

Darth Vader might have had a boomingly deep voice, but his lines and speeches were slow and deliberate. Lord Voldemort whispered the most menacing explanations of how he was going to kill Harry Potter, and he could do so in a way that made the hair on the back of your neck stand up. Colonel Hans Landa gave very calculated speeches (in four different languages, mind you) that could make your heart pound in your chest, even when he was smiling, because you knew he wasn’t sincere. Did the alien in Alien ever shout at you? No, it hissed through its teeth before it ate your insides. Hell, Michael Myers never uttered a goddamn syllable! With villains, it’s less about what they’re saying and more about how they’re saying it. A quieter and more biting delivery makes us feel more terrified throughout the movie because we never know when they’re going to snap.

But the biggest disappointment was the ending. You’re expecting a really strong coronation with a lot of pride emulating from your main character, you know, since she just won her kingdom back and got rid of the evil queen. And what’s the first look on her face after she’s crowned? Hesitance. How can someone who just battled her way back into her rightful kingdom and stabbed the evil queen, finally avenging her father’s death, look so uncertain?

Now, I know that Snow White would probably be feeling that huge responsibility of ruling an entire kingdom swaying over her head, and she’s a modest character. But damn! Give your people a confident look so they know they can trust you. She should’ve been all “I am your sovereign, and I will guide you through good times and bad.” Not “So…I have to lead all of them?” It doesn’t ruin the movie for me, but it was kind of…meh.

Overall, I thought this movie was adventurous, visually-appealing, and a great perspective of the original fairy tale. It was one of those movies where I walked out of the theater and didn’t regret spending $9 on my ticket. In fact, I’ll probably buy the DVD when it comes out (but that’s because I’m a nerd for medieval-ish stories with female heroines). I think this movie is okay for kids, as long as those kids aren’t ones that are easily scared by battle scenes or creepy images; but otherwise, it’s definitely more of an adult-version of the classic fairy tale. If Hollywood wants to take on more fairytales and make them badass (unlike Mirror, Mirror), I’d be okay with that. Oh, wait…that’s already happening.

Snow White and the Huntsman: B+

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